Accolades

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Matthew Sterne joins Oakland Business Improvement District board

Matthew Sterne, vice chancellor for business services at Pitt, has joined the board of directors of the Oakland Business Improvement District (OBID).

Formed in 1999, OBID represents a diverse group in Pittsburgh’s Oakland neighborhood, including property and business owners, universities, hospitals, city government, community and cultural nonprofits. Its mission is to create a vibrant and dynamic business district. 

Board members are elected to a three-year term.

Sterne oversees the office of business and auxiliary services at Pitt, including housing, dining, transportation and mobility, the University Club, University retail stores, conference services, Panther Central, mailing and print production. 

“He is joining us at a great moment,” said Georgia Petropoulos, OBID executive director, noting that the board has just completed a new Organizational Strategic Plan for shaping Oakland’s future. “His expertise will help us navigate current challenges as we work to realize this growth.” 

Monica Rattigan, executive director of University stores and strategic initiatives at Pitt, and Paul Supowitz, the University’s vice chancellor for Community and Governmental Relations, also serve on the OBID board. 

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Shawn Ellies appointed director of Security and Emergency Management

Commander Shawn Ellies has been appointed director of Security and Emergency Management, overseeing the Integrated Security Department, which includes the University’s physical security, access controls and emergency management areas within the Office of Public Safety and Emergency Management.

Ellies has served the Pitt community for the past 23 years in public safety roles including patrol officer, shift sergeant, shift lieutenant, administrative lieutenant, commander of the special emergency response team and commander of operations. 

He holds a doctorate in administration and policy studies from Pitt’s School of Education, a master’s degree in public policy and management from the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs and a master’s degree in leadership and management from Duquesne University. 

He is the chair of the American Society of Industrial Security’s Pittsburgh chapter, in addition to chairing Pitt’s Veterans Affinity Group

Additionally, Ellies is an ASIS Certified Protection Professional, a credential that is recognized as the gold standard for security management professionals worldwide.

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Pitt Law professors named to civil rights advisory committee

Two professors from Pitt’s School of Law have been named to the Pennsylvania Advisory Committee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights — an independent agency developed by Congress in 1957 to focus on matters of race, color, religion, sex, age, disability or national origin. There are advisory boards in all 50 states.

Associate Professor Jessie Allen (left) and Professor Mary Crossley have been appointed to the panel for four-year terms. They will consult with members of the commission and offer advice and recommendations on the areas they have studied.

Allen, a civil rights advocate, teaches courses on jurisprudence, legal ethics and property. She writes in the area of legal theory including a long-running series of essays on the work of William Blackstone, some of which appear on her blog Blackstone Weekly. Prior to her position at Pitt, Allen was a staff attorney at the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law, where her practice focused on challenging state laws that bar voting because of criminal conviction.

Crossley, a widely respected scholar in disability and health law, has studied pressing legal issues presented by advances in medical science. Those topics include discrimination in the treatment of infants with HIV infection and newborns with disabilities as well as the ramifications of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Crossley is director of Pitt Law’s Health Law Program and teaches courses in health law, bioethics and law, and family law, among others. She served as the dean of Pitt Law from 2005 to 2012.

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Law Professor Jules Lobel honored with teaching award

Pitt Professor of Law Jules Lobel has been honored with the Society of American Law Teachers Great Teacher Award. The award will be presented at a virtual celebration on Jan. 8, 2021.

This national award recognizes individuals that have made important contributions to teaching, legal education and mentoring. Past Great Teacher honorees include Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and former Pitt Professor Derrick Bell (Law ’57).

Calling Lobel “a champion of justice, diversity and teaching excellence,” the awards committee praised Lobel’s work in integrating his impactful and important social justice work into the courses he teaches at Pitt. Lobel has long been a leading voice in the campaign to end solitary confinement and improve the inhumane conditions of mass incarceration.

In 2002, he co-counseled a major class action (Wilkinson v. Austin) that challenged prolonged solitary confinement at the Ohio State Penitentiary in Youngstown, Ohio. Lobel ultimately argued the case at the U.S. Supreme Court and, despite the steep odds at the outset, was able to successfully secure relief on behalf of his clients. As is his practice with all his work, Lobel’s students conducted research, wrote memoranda, held strategy sessions, attended the argument, and met with human rights organizations and co-counsel while in Washington, D.C.

The society also mentioned Lobel’s work as president of the Center for Constitutional Rights, where he has litigated several cases challenging human rights violations and abuse of war powers. His most recent cases involve a class action brought on behalf of prisoners with mental disabilities and challenging conditions at jails in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“The full extent of Professor Lobel’s impact is not only what he has done, as incredible as his work is, but the work that his students and former students do and have been doing for decades,” said Pitt Law Dean Amy Wildermuth. “They remain inspired by him and are determined to pursue justice just as he taught them to do. We are all better — and our world is better — because of Professor Lobel.”

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Bob Chamberlain joins Pitt as emergency coordinator

Bob Chamberlain has joined Pitt’s Office of Public Safety and Emergency Management as emergency coordinator, in support of the Pitt community.

In this position, Chamberlain collaborates with the University’s emergency management team to develop, implement and assess emergency plans; serves as an emergency management liaison with local, state and federal officials; oversees emergency communications systems; leads the Emergency Operations Center; and trains others on disaster response and compliance.

He is a former U.S. Army intelligence officer with 24 years of joint, interagency, multinational and counterterrorism experience throughout the Middle East, Africa and the Far East.

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Two Pitt faculty named to Poets & Quants Top 50 Undergraduate Business Professors

Anthony Rodi, clinical associate professor of business administration, and Peggy Liu, assistant professor of business administration and Ben L. Fryrear Faculty Fellow, are among the Poets & Quants 2020 Top 50 Undergraduate Business Professors.

This year’s list features professors from 33 of the world’s best undergraduate business programs, selected from among nearly 900 nominees based on their achievements in research and teaching.

Rodi, whose expertise is in information systems and technology management, has taught at Pitt since 2015. Poets & Quants recognized his multiple teaching awards and industry experience.

“I am passionate about teaching and try to provide the best experience with every class that I teach,” Rodi told Poets & Quants. “My first priority has always been establishing excellence in the classroom by keeping course content relevant and engaging.”

Liu, whose research focuses on consumer behavior, joined the Pitt faculty in 2016. Poets & Quants cited her “very successful and impactful early teaching and research career” among the reasons for naming her to the prestigious list.

“I really enjoy teaching Pitt’s undergraduate business students because they are very bright, eager and humble. I love that they are open to learning consumer psychology theories and thinking about how to apply them to business and policy problems,” she told the publication.

Learn more about the awards.

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Eric Beckman named National Academy of Inventors fellow

Eric Beckman, distinguished service professor of chemical and petroleum engineering in the Swanson School of Engineering, was named a fellow of the National Academy of Inventors 2020 cohort.

Beckman is the eighth Pitt faculty member to be named an NAI fellow, and the second with a primary appointment in the Swanson School. He has nearly 200 peer-reviewed journal articles, 26 book chapters and receipt of 40 U.S. patents with more pending.

Beckman’s research group examines the use of molecular design to solve problems in green product formulation and in the design of materials for use in tissue engineering. He is currently leading a grant from the MacArthur Foundation and NineSigma, in collaboration with Think Beyond Plastic, to develop innovations to reduce the amount of plastics that end up being burned or buried in landfills, or make their way into the world’s waterways and oceans.

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Valerie Kinloch to chair NCTE convention

Valerie Kinloch, dean of the Pitt School of Education, will serve as program chair of the 2021 annual convention of the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE), which is scheduled for Nov. 18-21, 2021, in Louisville, Ky. Kinloch, who is the president-elect of NCTE, selected “Equity, Justice and Antiracist Teaching” as the convention theme.

The annual NCTE convention is attended by thousands of literacy educators in K-12 and higher education. Proposal submissions for the 2021 annual convention will be accepted through Jan. 13, 2021. Membership in NCTE is not required to submit a proposal. Learn more about the NCTE convention.

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Engineering researchers awarded grant for 2D metal study

The Nanoionics and Electronics Laboratory at Pitt’s Swanson School of Engineering has received $557,000 in funding from the National Science Foundation for its work investigating a new type of two-dimensional material.

The six-year funding will enable Pitt researchers to explore atomically thin metals, also known as two-dimensional (2D) metals. The project is part of the National Science Foundation's Materials Research Science and Engineering Centers at the Penn State University Center for Nanoscale Science. Researchers will pioneer new methods of encasing 2D metals in graphene, which will enhance its optical properties and make it useful for applications in biosensing and quantum devices. 

From Pitt’s side, the research will be led by Susan Fullerton, associate professor of chemical and petroleum engineering, and Ke Xu, visiting research assistant professor in chemical and petroleum engineering.

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Jason Hare named Pennsylvania Educator of the Year

Jason Hare, assistant professor of physician assistant studies in the School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, is the winner of the 2020 Pennsylvania Educator of the Year award, given annually by the Pennsylvania Society of Physician Assistants.

The award honors a Pennsylvania physician assistant educator who inspires, stimulates and challenges their students and colleagues through outstanding contributions to Pennsylvania education and the physician assistant profession. This is the fourth year in a row that this award has been won by a Pitt physician assistant faculty.

Hare’s research interests include physician assistant education and assessment, as well as medically underserved populations. He serves as the physician assistant faculty advisor to the Pitt Primary Care Progress organization, which works to encourage students in all healthcare-related fields to pursue primary care positions, and provides interprofessional education to Pitt health sciences students. 

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Marta Lewicka selected for AMS Fellowship

Marta Lewicka, an associate professor in the Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences’ Department of Mathematics, has been named to the Fellows of the American Mathematical Society (AMS) for 2021. The AMS recognizes members who have made outstanding contributions to the creation, exposition, advancement, communication and utilization of mathematics. Lewicka was chosen for contributions to partial differential equations, calculus of variations and continuum mechanics.

"It is a great pleasure to offer my sincere congratulations to the new AMS Fellows, honored for their notable contributions to mathematics and to the profession. We are grateful to the nominators and the members of the selection committee for helping the AMS recognize the achievements of their esteemed colleagues through this fellowship," said AMS President Jill C. Pipher.

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Colin Allen named American Association for the Advancement of Science Fellow

Colin Allen, a distinguished professor in the Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences’ Department of History and Philosophy of Science, has been named a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). Allen was elected as part of the section on history and philosophy of science for “his significant contributions to philosophy of science, philosophy of biology, philosophy of cognitive science and in logic, computation and artificial intelligence.”

Allen is one of 489 members inducted this year. On Feb. 13, 2021, there will be a virtual forum with an induction ceremony for new fellows.

AAAS is the world’s largest general scientific society and publisher of Science, Science Translational Medicine, Science Signaling, Science Advances, Science Immunology and Science Robotics. The association was founded in 1848 and includes more than 250 affiliated societies and academies of science, serving 10 million individuals. The nonprofit aims to “advance science and serve society” through initiatives in science policy, international programs, science education, public engagement and more.

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Prize winners awarded for PittChallenge hackathon

The fourth annual Pitt Challenge hackathon, sponsored by the University of Pittsburgh School of Pharmacy, recently announced this year’s winners.

The virtual competition had 77 total participants from a record 36 universities worldwide and 16 total projects submitted.

The winners included the following:

  • 1st prize, $1,500, Our Experience, a crowdsourced platform for patients to report side effects of drugs based on their clinical information.

  • 2nd prize, $1,000, Pandemic Simulator, a virtual simulator that demonstrates the challenge of implementing healthcare policy during a pandemic, especially in balancing both public health and the economy.

  • 3rd prize, $500, MindWatch, a direct-to-consumer product that collects data about cognition over time and displays it to health workers to help guide decision making.

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New research develops testing method for shoe tread

Research led by the University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering that examines shoe tread wear and tear over time was recently published in the journal Applied Ergonomics.

The team, led by Kurt Beschorner, associate professor of bioengineering at Pitt, developed a pass/fail testing method that assesses the worn condition of slip-resistant shoes. The test compares a worn patch of shoe tread to the base of a AA battery. If the patch of worn tread is larger than the battery’s base, the shoe fails the slip-resistant test. Worn shoes are known to contribute to slip-and-fall risk, a common cause of workplace injuries. The method will be free for companies to use to prevent workplace injuries.

The team worked with researchers from the University of Colorado Boulder and the India Institute of Technology-Delhi.

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Acting Honors College Dean Audrey Murrell interviewed on food insecurity

Audrey J. Murrell, acting dean of the University Honors College, was recently interviewed by WQED Multimedia for a new documentary on the topic of food insecurity.

Starved: Our Food Insecurity Crisis” examined and identified the causes of this societal problem—which has worsened during the pandemic—and affects 300,000 people in western Pennsylvania.

Having developed the Food Abundance Index (FAI) study and toolkit with Pitt Business colleague Ray Jones, Murrell explained in the documentary that while food insecurity involves financial need, it is also impacted by food policy, food access, and health and well-being of families. 

In addition to the FAI, she created the Pitt Honors Food Ecosystems Scholar Community for students to cross boundaries and help transform the food system. She is also board chair of Food21, a nonprofit focused on expanding the breadth and depth of the regional food and agricultural economy. 

In addition to her role with Pitt Honors, Murrell is a professor of business administration in the Joseph M. Katz Graduate School of Business and the College of Business Administration and holds secondary appointments in the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs and the Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences’ Department of Psychology.

DeNardis from CFO’s office to chair board of cancer organization

Peter DeNardis, who works in Planning & Analysis in the Office of the Chief Financial Officer, has been appointed chair of the board of trustees of the International Waldenstrom’s Macroglobulinemia Foundation — an organization devoted to education, patient support and research of a rare form of lymphoma.

DeNardis, who was diagnosed with the disease in 2003, will become chair of the international nonprofit cancer organization on Dec. 1.

“When first diagnosed in 2003, I immediately turned to the internet to find out about my rare cancer with the strange name,” he said in a news release from the organization. “Fortunately, it didn't take long to find the IWMF, and the resource it provides for WM patients and caregivers.

“With each relapse and unusual health issue, the IWMF community has been there for me and my family to guide us and provide comfort and support. Like many others around the world, we've been able to take advantage of the ever-expanding services and information provided under the guidance of the IWMF Board Chairs, Board members, and staff. I consider myself fortunate to have the opportunity to give back to the IWMF and carry the torch to light the way for other WMers facing life with WM.”

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‘Ghosts of Amistad’ documentary now accessible online

The award-winning documentary “Ghosts of Amistad: In the Footsteps of the Rebels,” directed by Tony Buba and produced by Pitt Distinguished Professor of Atlantic History Marcus Rediker, is now available to view online for free on Pitt’s YouTube and Vimeo channels. Rediker teaches in the Department of History, part of the Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences.

The film chronicles a journey to Sierra Leone in 2013 to visit the home villages of the rebels who captured the slave schooner Amistad in 1839. The filmmakers interviewed elders about local memory of the incident through the oral tradition and searched for the long-lost ruins of Lomboko, the slave trading factory where the cruel transatlantic voyage began. Rediker and Buba relied on the knowledge of villagers, fishermen and truck drivers to recover a lost history from below in the struggle against slavery and to restore the popular memory of the Atlantic slave trade.

“In a time when many Americans and others around the world are eager to learn about racial injustice and its history, it is crucial to have this film about the slave trade—and successful resistance to the slave trade—as a resource,” said Rediker, adding that his primary goal in making the film was “to create the best possible educational tool for the widest possible audience.”

“Ghosts of Amistad” is also available, with subtitles, in French, Italian and Spanish. The film was awarded the John E. O’Connor Film Prize by the American Historical Association as the best historical documentary of 2015.  It has been screened around the world—in Paris, London, Amsterdam, Bologna and throughout the United States.

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School of Medicine’s Tamar Krishnamurti wins 2020 Kuno Award

Tamar Krishnamurti, assistant professor of medicine at Pitt's School of Medicine, was recently announced as the winner of the 2020 Kuno Award for Applied Science, a grant through the S&R Foundation.

The $100,000 award is a biennial award designed to support women social innovators using scientific research and principles to address a 21st century problem. The award supports the translation of scientific research to a practical, real-world solution for those aiming to achieve broad social impact. 

Krishnamurti’s research examines problems that meet at the intersection of health, risk, technology and the environment. Currently, she is looking at risk perception and communication and the development of mobile health strategies to identify and intervene on health risks, including pregnancy-related risks.

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SHREC partners with robotics company on space technology advancements

The National Science Foundation Center for Space, High-performance, and Resilient Computing (SHREC), led by the University of Pittsburgh, recently entered into a partnership with Pittsburgh-based space robotics company Astrobotic to develop new software and hardware technologies for future space applications.

A diverse cohort of researchers, scientists and engineers at Astrobotic and SHREC will share intellectual property, domain expertise and practical know-how to develop space computing platforms, among other technologies. The teams have already kicked off collaboration on Astrobotic’s Phase II NASA SBIR contract to develop UltraNav, a compact smart camera for next-generation space missions.

“On behalf of all students and faculty in SHREC, we are most honored to be partnering with the leading space company in our region,” said Alan George, SHREC Center director and R&H Mickle endowed chair of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Pitt’s Swanson School of Engineering. “We look forward to many collaborations on space research, technologies, experiments and workforce development.”

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Suzanne Lane appointed to National Assessment Governing Board

Suzanne Lane, a professor in the School of Education, has been appointed to the National Assessment Governing Board, the entity behind the National Assessment of Educational Progress. Lane, a 35-year faculty member of Pitt will serve a four-year term on the board. She has formerly served as president of the National Council on Measurement in Education and vice president of Division D of the American Educational Research Association. Read more about the appointment and her work.